Markets in the Meadows: Department Stores and Shopping Centers in the Decentralization of Philadelphia, 1920–1980

Through a study of the history of department stores and shopping centers in the Philadelphia metropolitan region between 1920 and 1980, I explore the historical role of retailing in the evolution of the "sprawl" landscape that came to dominate urban form in the United States by the end of the twentieth century. Philadelphia is an important case study for this topic because of its long history of urbanization, during which it developed from a colonial port city to a nine-teenth-century industrial metropolis to a model of twentieth-century deindustrialization. Through all the phases of its growth, Philadelphia remained an important consumer marketplace serving the regional hinterland of the Delaware Valley. I sought to understand the forces that led to the city's twentieth-century decline as the primary site of consumption for the Delaware Valley, when major sites for distributing consumer goods developed in the hinterland itself.